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Water-quality trends and trend component estimates for the Nation's rivers and streams using Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) models and generalized flow normalization, 1972-2012

December 4, 2018

Nonstationary streamflow due to environmental and human-induced causes can affect water quality over time, yet these effects are poorly accounted for in water-quality trend models. This data release provides instream water-quality trends and estimates of two components of change, for sites across the Nation previously presented in Oelsner et al. (2017). We used previously calibrated Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) models published in De Cicco et al. (2017) to estimate instream water-quality trends and associated uncertainties with the generalized flow normalization procedure available in EGRET version 3.0 (Hirsch et al., 2018a) and EGRETci version 2.0 (Hirsch et al., 2018b). The procedure allows for nonstationarity in the flow regime, whereas previous versions of EGRET assumed streamflow stationarity. Water-quality trends of annual mean concentrations and loads (also referred to as fluxes) are provided as an annual series and the change between the start and end year for four trend periods (1972-2012, 1982-2012, 1992-2012, and 2002-2012). Information about the sites, including the collecting agency and associated streamflow gage, and information about site selection and the data screening process can be found in Oelsner et al. (2017). This data release includes results for 19 water-quality parameters including nutrients (ammonia, nitrate, filtered and unfiltered orthophosphate, total nitrogen, total phosphorus), major ions (calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfate), salinity indicators (specific conductance, total dissolved solids), carbon (alkalinity, dissolved organic carbon, total organic carbon), and sediment (total suspended solids, suspended-sediment concentration) at over 1,200 sites. Note, the number of parameters with data varies by site with most sites having data for 1-4 parameters. Each water-quality trend was parsed into two components of change: (1) the streamflow trend component (QTC) and (2) the watershed management trend component (MTC). The QTC is an indicator of the amount of change in the water-quality trend attributed to changes in the streamflow regime, and the MTC is an indicator of the amount of change in the water-quality trend that may be attributed to human actions and changes in point and non-point sources in a watershed. Note, the MTC is referred to as the concentration-discharge trend component (CQTC) in the EGRET version 3.0 software. For our work, we chose to refer to this trend component as the MTC because it provides a more conceptual description (Murphy and Sprague, in review). The trend results presented here expand upon the results in De Cicco et al. (2017) and Oelsner et al. (2017), which were analyzed using flow-normalization under the stationary streamflow assumption. The results presented in this data release are intended to complement these previously published results and support investigations into natural and human effects on water-quality trends across the United States. Data preparation information and WRTDS model specifications are described in Oelsner et al. (2017) and Murphy and Sprague (in review). This work was completed as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) project of the National Water-Quality Program. De Cicco, L.A., Sprague, L.A., Murphy, J.C., Riskin, M.L., Falcone, J.A., Stets, E.G., Oelsner, G.P., and Johnson, H.M., 2017, Water-quality and streamflow datasets used in the Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) models to determine trends in the Nation's rivers and streams, 1972-2012 (ver. 1.1 July 7, 2017): U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7KW5D4H. Hirsch, R., De Cicco, L., Watkins, D., Carr, L., and Murphy, J., 2018a, EGRET: Exploration and Graphics for RivEr Trends, version 3.0, https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=EGRET. Hirsch, R., De Cicco, L., and Murphy, J., 2018b, EGRETci: Exploration and Graphics for RivEr Trends (EGRET) Confidence Intervals, version 2.0. https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=EGRETci. Murphy, J.C., and Sprague, L.A., in review, Water-quality trends in US rivers: Exploring effects from streamflow trends and changes in watershed management. Oelsner, G.P., Sprague, L.A., Murphy, J.C., Zuellig, R.E., Johnson, H.M., Ryberg, K.R., Falcone, J.A., Stets, E.G., Vecchia, A.V., Riskin, M.L., De Cicco, L.A., Mills, T.J., and Farmer, W.H., 2017, Water-quality trends in the Nation's rivers and streams, 1972-2012-Data preparation, statistical methods, and trend results (ver. 2.0, October 2017): U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5006, 136 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175006.

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